Emmanuel Levinas Critical assessments by Emmanuel Levinas

By Emmanuel Levinas

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2/Ha73)`" Levinas immediately goes on to add: "It would he a question of a new concept of passivity, of a passivity more radical than that of an effect in a causal series, on the hitherside of consciousness and knowing" (CPI 32/1-673). The 15 LEVINAS, PHENOMENOLOGY AND HIS CRITICS formulation is "new" but the reflection behind it is as old as the 'I'almud: "to leave men without food is a fault that no circumstance attenuates; the distinction between the voluntary and the involuntary does not apply here" (Rabbi Yochanan, Synhedrin treatisc, quoted TI201/Ti175).

It would set forth a verdict deriving from implacable and universal principies that would require justification in turn, leading to an infinite regress. Although in Totality and Infinity it is Descartes who supplies the model of critique "as a tracing back to what precedes freedom" (T185/1157), in the publications that follow wc find Kant taking over this role. Levinas's reading of Descartes is extremely atypical and selective. 25 All of these are considered dogmas which criticism is called upon to expose at every turn.

As a "simultaneity [f. 49 In "humanism and An-archy," an essay contemporary with "La Substitution" (1968), the kcrnel of Otherwise Than Being, the expository strategy of antilogy is radicalized. "Ethics here makes its cntry into philosophical discourse, which at the start was strictly ontological, as an extreme turning around of its possibilities" (CP135/Ha77). " Few criticisms are - likely to run deeper than the charge that Levinas's account of responsibility as "pure passivity that precedes freedom" (CP136/ Ha79) is a rarefied form of determinism.

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